A bit back, I mentioned that Seattle has music festivals like it has rain. That actually goes for the Pacific Northwest as a whole, a fact I spent this past weekend basking in on my trip to Portland for Music Fest Northwest (MFNW).
The truth is the friends I stayed with and I didn’t see that many shows. I arrived Friday evening, a whole day after festivities had begun. (It was supposed to be Friday afternoon, but Amtrak ran into a freighter-line block that lasted nearly an hour.) Unlike the enclosed space of a Bumbershoot or the closely-clustered venues of a South by Southwest or the still-to-come Decibel Festival in Seattle, MFNW is spread out all over town, and while Portland isn’t humongous, the venues can still take some trekking to.
MFNW works the way a lot of the better festivals do: Most of the acts are local or regional, with a couple bigger-named national headliners. In MFNW’s case, these were Vampire Weekend, Les Savy Fav, and TV on the Radio. Since I’d caught the first two at Seattle’s Capitol Hill Block Party in July and (still) have no interest in the latter, I was fine with missing them. Besides, I saw two bands that easily matched LSF’s intensity, and in one case surpassed it in stagecraft. I didn’t believe it, either, till I saw it.
It is somewhat surprising Monotonix hasn’t been mentioned on Idolator before. They’re from Israel, they have great hair and mustaches and taste in short shorts, and at the grungy punk club Satyricon, they made LSF’s hyperactive, performance-minded frontman Tim Harrington look like that chick from Project Runway who got eliminated for mistaking Laura Ingalls Wilder’s dress sense for surrealism. Monotonix set up on the floor in front of the stage–OK, fine so far, if not groundbreaking. The moment I realized something ridiculous was taking place was probably when the industrial-sized Rubbermaid bin started being thrown around overhead; things got more outlandish from there. Midway through the set (about a half-hour, which was perfect; any longer would have been too much, even for them), they ran full-steam ahead out to the front of the venue and kept it going on the sidewalk. The singer climbed a tree, mooned us several times, and made sure each time to spread his ass cheeks open for an even better view. The drummer sat on a floor tom and was hoisted into the air by audience members, who also held aloft his snare and cymbals; he didn’t miss a beat. After that, everything else felt faintly anticlimactic.
Nevertheless, the next night in the same venue my friends and I were very impressed by Fucked Up‘s headline performance. Given that my introduction to the band wasn’t any of their early hardcore records but last year’s mammoth, 14-and-a-half-minute single “Year of the Pig,” and that the advance MP3 from their Matador debut, “No Epiphany,” is, singer Pink Eyes’ guttural roar aside, pure psychedelic bliss-out. But hardcore is what they lean on live, and for good reason. With three guitarists slop would be barely noticeable. There’s none of that here: every musician is locked in, razor sharp. And Pink Eyes has mad charisma, throwing a ragged life-sized doll into the pit to be tossed around. (“Fuck it!” urged one of the band as it whipped through the air.) A glorious noise, and a good ending for an enjoyable weekend.